In 2023, the Reentry Campus Program team traveled to two national social justice conferences to take in experts from around the country. Meeting people around the United States working for higher education in prisons is essential for gathering best practices from others, reminding us we’re part of a larger movement, and growing the impact of Reentry Campus Program.
In November, we went to Atlanta for the 13th annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prison hosted by the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison. The conference this year sought to explore how we can use education to “Close the Distance” between “inside” and “outside,” disparities in career opportunities and resources, between families and communities, and more. You can see some photos from the trip on our Instagram page.
The conference featured presentations from programs and thought leaders around the country on everything from creating a prison to Ph.D. pipeline, starting and sustaining prison education programs, banning the box in higher ed, collaborating with higher education institutions, and creating transformational reentry networks. The commitment to inclusivity was made clear: Every panel featured formerly incarcerated people speaking from their own experiences and nearly every panel integrated people currently incarcerated via Zoom.
Taking in that level of knowledge and community at NCHEP was an incredible experience, but being together as a team to build our relationships as a team was also fantastic. Learning, building stronger relationships and being inspired together at a conference like this is important. It deepens our ability to collaborate as we create educational access for incarcerated/formerly incarcerated people. RCP works hard but also plays hard: in-between panels and meetings we managed to sneak in a trip to Waffle House and the Atlanta Aquarium.
A few weeks later, the team set out to New York City for the United Justice Coalition summit after being invited by representatives of ROC Nation.
UJC is a non-profit that works across disciplines to raise awareness around social justice issues and the need for criminal justice reform. UJC has convened leaders, experts, advocates, and individuals across various fields committed to advancing justice for the past two years.
We took in star-studded panels on mental health and criminal justice, anti-recidivism, and sentencing alternatives. It was an incredible opportunity to see the convergence of celebrity, art, and activism come together to have critical conversations about addressing social justice issues and creating change.